Here’s Part 3 of my conversation with Virginia Task Force 1 where they talk about the conditions in which their team operated in Ofunato, Japan; what they knew about the leaking radiation coming from Fukushima nuclear power plant; what concerns they had about radiation exposure; and the survivability conditions of the area following the earthquake and tsunami.
Rich Cooper: So you guys are sleeping in an elementary school gymnasium and you’ve got your location from where you are going to start your basic operations. Everywhere you look there is ruin. Where do you begin?
Capt. Joe Knerr: It begins with talking to the locals. Any emergency requires locals.
Cooper: Were there any locals around to talk to?
Lt. Rodney Vaughan: Oh, absolutely. With the elevation and terrain in this area – there were areas that were completely wiped clean and then, right across the street, it’s business as usual. It was just based on terrain. If you happened to be in the right spot, then your house and everything was not affected, and so the line of demarcation or destruction was very distinct where we were.
But it all starts with talking to first responders, and the families that are down there, because once again, we are down there to help them, and the last thing that we want to do – it’s taken us 48 hours to get in the theater, we don’t want to waste time duplicating efforts – so you make contact with them and say: “We are here to help, what do you need?”
And then based on what their needs are, they tell us, “We need you to look at this area.”
OK. Based on that area, we go with our search team managers, our rescue squad officers, and go, [drawing with his hand] “Hey we have a box [an area] this big.”
It’s mostly tsunami damage and we can get a quick view. Its rubble piles and then we come up with the search plan for how to cover it.